Tomorrow, I will turn 30. I am overwhelmed with the common cliché feelings women have as they prepare to turn 30: fear, sadness, happiness, loneliness, anxiousness, but overall, excitement and a desire to celebrate.
Tomorrow, I will celebrate a new decade and the opportunity to make better mistakes than I did in the last decade. The goal of publishing this is not to initiate confessional intimacy with complete strangers, but instead, to talk about and celebrate the things we as women don’t often discuss. So (deep breath…),here is a letter to my 19-year-old self.
Dear 19-year-old SB,
Tomorrow, you turn 20! You have already come such a long way and while you’ve been thrown some curveballs over the last few years, I want to assure you that everything will be okay. I am proud of you as a sophomore and all you’ve accomplished. But I want you to know that I am more proud of your failures, because they are going to make you into the woman you will eventually become.
I am excited to share with you the things you will learn over the next 10 years.
1. Take risks:
You are going to fail a lot. Like, a lot a lot. But you are resilient (more resilient than you think you are) and will bounce back every time. There will be times when you don’t know how you could possibly bounce back, but you will find a way. Always take the shot, even when you are almost certain you’ll miss.
In a few years you personally will hand your resume in for a job that you aren’t qualified for. When you interview, you will bring a giant blue box to present your ridiculous idea. Not only will that ridiculous box land you your first job, it will be the stepping stone for your career in Toronto, Boston, and San Francisco. I know, can you believe it? You did it, you achieved your dream of living in California!
2. Make healthy choices:
You quit smoking! I bet you didn’t see that one coming. You’ll quit because you are too vain to continue smoking, but you’ll stay a non-smoker because the only thing better than smoking is not smoking. Take care of your body. You’ll come to learn that adult hangovers are the worst. Your metabolism will slow down, your hangovers will last longer, and you will need to be careful with what goes into your body. Start taking care of it now. I wish I could tell you that you will eat and drink in moderation in 10 years, but you don’t. You do learn the consequences though.
3. Go all in for love:
This is a tough one. It’s going to be hard for you to read. In the next ten years, it will seem like you are addicted to goodbyes. You will have your heart-broken more than I would like to admit to you. And, I need to warn you, one time in particular will be really bad. Nothing like you will have experienced to date will be as excruciating as what you will experience, but you will learn, you will get through it (even though it won’t seem like it), and you will somehow be better for it.
You will learn that you weren’t ready for ‘the one’ then and still had a lot to learn. You will have relationships after the break-up and the pain will eventually go away.
Just don’t cry for too long… no one deserves it and you will regret the amount of time you spent being upset because the next relationship you have will be so much better. You are going to see a lot of your close friends get married–you’ll even get to be a bridesmaid–but you won’t be married by the time you are 30. I am not going to going to tell you that it is okay, because it’s going to be hard.
You will be successful in every aspect of your life except this one. I am not sure why you don’t meet him in the next ten years, but you don’t, and although it is definitely shitty, what I can say is that it doesn’t define who you are.
4. Take control of your finances:
You will learn that women don’t talk about money with each other. It will frustrate you because men share salaries and investment strategies with one another, but women won’t. You will date someone (that jerk who broke your heart), and you will later thank him because he will have been the one who taught you how to invest. Here is what you did and here is what I hope you do sooner, in this order. You won’t have college debt, because if you did, you would of course pay that off first.
1. Contribute as much as you can today to your retirement plan
2. Open an IRA
3. Open an investment account
Save as much money as you can and then spoil yourself with the rest. I started trying to max out the first two by the time I was 26. Take another 10% of your salary once you’ve maxed out the first two and open that investment account. By the time you are 30 you will have enough in all accounts that you will be set up for a rainy day and will have started good financial habits.
I’m serious though, spend the rest and enjoy life. Buy those shoes, take that trip, splurge on that fancy meal, and spend whatever else you have left.
5. Shoot for the moon in your career:
Your degree will basically be useless. While it was a necessary piece of paper to help land your first job and is where you met some of your closest friends, you won’t learn anything there that you will apply to your career. It will demoralize you and make you feel like you aren’t smart enough to enter the “real world.”
The truth is, brawn beats brain every time. You are going to work harder than anyone else and be rewarded for doing so. Enjoy your time now in college and do enough to pass, but don’t take it as seriously as you are taking it. You aren’t going to law school like you think you are. You are going to land in product marketing by the time you are 25. (I know you have zero idea what that is, but you will learn…)
6. Embrace your friendships:
There is your biological family, which I will get to next, and your chosen family. Your chosen family is comprised of your close girlfriends. Although you didn’t really have girlfriends until you got to college, you will find that friendships will help define who you are. Invest in them. You will start to bail, but try not to. Try to follow through with your commitments and devote time and energy to your friendships.
7. Appreciate your family:
Your biological family. They will frustrate you, but they are the only real family you have. Distance and time will ultimately distance you from them, but nurture that relationship, be patient, and remember that they won’t be here forever. I am proud of the relationship I have with them today, and spending the time every day to nurture it will be one of your greatest sources of happiness.
Today, I turn 30. As I excitedly enter this new decade, I write you this letter as a promise. I promise to make better mistakes this decade.